Branding Design: Knowing Your Client

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

You will create your best designs when you understand your client’s needs—and even better, when you understand the needs of your client’s customers, because they are the real audience for any corporate identity. In our profession, a designer must become an “instant expert” in various companies. This is a challenge, but it is also one of the perks. How can you get bored when you must think like an accountant one day, an industrialist the next and a service worker after that? For a designer of corporate identities, it’s never “same old, same old.”

But this “inside” knowledge doesn’t come without effort. The easiest way to learn it is directly from your client.

Interviewing Your Client
Here is a sample of questions that can help you apply the four conceptual approaches:
• What is this company’s activity?
• Specifically, what do you do? What is the essence of this business?
• What is the product of your business? What do your customers get from your product or service? Digging deeper, what is the final benefit, advantage or improved state of being that using your product or service gives the customer?
• What objects or images have been associated with your company’s products/services in the past?
• What objects or images could be associated with your company’s products/services?
• What are the major competitors for your business or alternatives for your customers?
• What niche or characteristic makes your company unique?
• What qualities, feelings or ideals would your company like associated with it? (see Discovering Appropriate Ideals Activity)
• What sort of imagery could convey those ideals?
• What qualities, feelings or ideals would your company NOT want associated with it?
• What sort of images might be associated with your corporate name?
• What kinds of imagery are compatible with your company’s character, specialties and marketplace niche?
• How do you want your business to grow?
• What kind of clientele do you want to attract? Will this be a new market or greater share of your existing market? Is it domestic, business to business, industrial, international?
• What are some of the jargon words used in this industry for things like the customer’s problem, a job well done, and so on?
• Comments / Questions / Clarifications

Knowing a Client's Needs

Discovering Appropriate Ideals
As part of a designer’s interviewing of a client, the following exercise may be helpful. This will obviously inform corporate ideals concepts but will also help the designer choose shapes for executing any concept.

  1. From the list of words in the following block, underline any word that should be associated with this company.
  2. Put an X through any qualities with which your company would avoid association.
  3. Go back through the list and circle the five most important definers of this company’s desired reputation.
  4. It is quite likely that by going through the following list of words, other words that may be more appropriate for your client will emerge. Feel free to add words at the bottom of the grid that better fit qualities or ideals that your company would want, or would not want, to be associated with.
Corporate Ideals Exercise
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